• July 29, 2011

‘The Cloud’ and What it Means for Wireless Technology

Cloud

Image via Wikipedia

The cloud is an all-encompassing thing that’s actually been around for a while (e.g. distributed computing, Network Attached Storage). Most of it exists today in the enterprise but is being pushed to the Internet and rebranded “The Cloud.” This affects three wireless networking segments: consumers (e.g., you, me, mom, dad), Internet providers (e.g., mobile operators, ILECs, CLECs) and wireless solutions vendors (e.g., Symmetricom, Aviat Networks).

For consumers, it represents the ability to store information—pictures, music, movies—virtually and access them wherever we go from devices of our choice. No longer do we have to worry about backing up smartphones, tablets or laptops. The downside is that this magic is going on in the background all while your data caps are being reached. So, watch out….

On the mobile operator side, this will represent a substantial increase in bandwidth used. In addition, bandwidth usage starts to become more symmetrical as more uplink bandwidth is utilized while uploading to the cloud. This also means more frequency consumption on the RAN-side as subscribers stay “on” more often. Operators need to figure how to get users off the air interface as quickly as possible. This calls for greater throughput and potentially much lower latency. Trickling data to end users compounds the air interface problem. For the most part, subscribers won’t realize what’s happening and data caps are more likely to be reached. This translates into either more revenue and/or dissatisfied customers. Clearly, operators must monetize transport more effectively and at the same time provide more bandwidth.

Lastly, for wireless solutions vendors this translates into increased sales of wireless equipment to ease the sharp increase in bandwidth consumption. This also translates into more intelligent and robust network designs (e.g., physical and logical meshes, fine-grained QoS controls) as subscribers rely more on network access for day-to-day activities. As for the cloud in general and the overall effect:

  • Traffic starts to become more and more symmetrical (i.e., photos and videos automatically upload and then downloaded to all individual peer devices (e.g., your iPhone video uploads to the cloud and then syncs to your laptop and iPad)
  • Lots more bandwidth will be used. Today, content drives bandwidth demand (e.g., you open a browser and connect to a website, you launch your Facebook mobile app and upload photos). Tomorrow, those activities will happen automatically and continuously
  • Over the Air (OTA) updates to the phone are now downloaded over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G networks. Seemingly, updates are the only things that have changed, but it still amounts to about 150 MB per phone per update—another bandwidth driver
  • More prevalent use of video conferencing—low latency, sustained bandwidth demand

Therefore, the amount of bandwidth consumption will rise dramatically this September when Apple releases iOS 5 and iCloud. Android has already driven much bandwidth demand, but it’s not nearly as “sexy” as what Apple is releasing for its 220 million users—or alternately total iOS devices: iPod touch, iPad, iPhone). It’s more than just bandwidth—it’s quality, reliable bandwidth where QoS and Adaptive Modulation will play significant roles—of this, I’m certain.

At a recent TNMO event they were talking about LTE-Advanced and leveraging the cloud for virtual hard drives. Imagine, no physical hard drive in your computer. Laptops are connected via 4G wireless/5G LTE wireless to a cloud-based hard drive, equating to lots and lots of bandwidth plus stringent latency requirements….

Steve Loebrich
Director of Product and Solutions Marketing, Aviat Networks

  • July 27, 2011

Managing Wireless Networks with Element Management Systems

Management of Complexity

An EMS can be thought of as managing all the elements in a complex network, keeping them all in balance. Image by michael.heiss via Flickr

Managing a wireless network is essential. Radios, routers and third-party add-ons control vast amounts of valuable user data. Any wireless network downtime damages the user’s business and the operator’s long-term reputation. Thus, operators need a powerful but easy-to-use element management system (EMS) to monitor and administer all the disparate elements in their wireless communication networks.

Also, operators should be able to manage complete networks from a user-friendly interface, which must provide all the necessary information for fast network management system decision-making. And this system must be capable of complete standalone operation or being integrated into an operational support system using NorthBound Interfaces (NBIs).

Other additional functionality in the form of event management and notifications capability is also necessary in an EMS for wireless networks. An EMS should inform wireless operators about network events and device failures and let them to diagnose problems and apply network updates remotely. This reduces the time between a fault occurring and the fault being repaired. It may even allow a repair to be completed before a wireless link fails completely. For day-to-day management, operators need an EMS that can:

  • Deploy, manage and auto-discover wireless equipment—including all Aviat Networks devices, partner products and third-party devices
  • Display an entire network at once, via one of several map views
  • Provide an overview of network events
  • Deliver notifications of important network events
  • Enable analysis of network events, device events and performance data
  • Generate detailed reports on all aspects of a network
ProVision Screen Shot

The ProVision EMS solution can manage all Aviat Networks wireless solutions, partner wireless equipment and third-party devices from a user-friendly GUI.

Fortunately, such a carrier-class EMS solution does exist. Aviat Networks develops its ProVision EMS based on customer demand and continues to upgrade it as per user requests and requirements. For customers, implementing ProVision is vastly more efficient than developing an in-house EMS, saving time, resources and money. Aviat Networks EMS solutions are the most cost-effective way to manage wireless solutions. Aviat Networks works closely with customers to make sure that ProVision is user-friendly. The goal is that ProVision EMS allows operators to manage their networks proactively—rather than reactively—and with reduced network operating costs.

Look for future blog posts on must-have EMS data features and stats on operators using carrier-class EMS.

Mick Morrow
Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Aviat Networks

  • July 22, 2011

Evolution of Microwave: History of Wireless Communications

The Microwave Sky

This image of microwave energy in a "total sky" picture of the known universe shows it's everywhere in primordial space, more than 13 billion years ago.

Microwaves are as old as the beginning of the universe. Well, they’ve been around for at least 13.7 billion years—very close to the total time since the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago. However, we don’t want to go that far back in covering the history of microwave communications.

Having just observed the 155th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, arguably the most important inventor involved in radio and wireless communications, this is a good time to take a broader view of the wireless industry. If you have been in the wireless transmission field for some time, you are probably familiar with Dick Laine, Aviat Networks‘ principal engineer. He has taught a wireless transmission course for many years—for Aviat Networks and its predecessor companies.

The embedded presentation below comes from one of those courses. In a technological field filled with such well-educated scientists and engineers from some of the finest universities and colleges, it’s hard to believe that microwave solutions and radio itself started in so much controversy by men who were in many cases self-taught. Dick’s presentation goes over all of this in a bit more detail. Hopefully, it’s enough to whet your appetite to find out more. If you like the presentation, consider hearing it live or another lecture series on wireless transmission engineering at one of our open enrollment training courses.

  • NASA’s ‘Age of Aquarius’ Dawns With California Launch (spacefellowship.com)
  • Solar Power from the Moon (empressoftheglobaluniverse.wordpress.com)
  • Ireland Issues Spectrum Consultation on Wireless Communications (aviatnetworks.com)
  • Backhaul for the Mobile Broadband or Wireless Broadband Network (aviatnetworks.com)
  • Homage to Nikola Tesla, Great Inventor of Wireless Technology (aviatnetworks.com)
  • July 20, 2011

Hybrid Microwave for Wireless Network Backhaul Evolution

Microwave telecommunications tower, wireless network backhaul solution

Image via Wikipedia

There is no one-size-fits-all wireless network backhaul solution. What will work for some operators’ mobile backhaul will not work for others. Many operators have large installed bases of TDM infrastructure, and it is too cost-prohibitive to uninstall them wholesale and jump directly to a full IP mobile backhaul. There is going to be a transition period.

The transition period will need a different breed of wireless solutions. Fourth Generation Hybrid or Dual Ethernet/TDM microwave radio systems provide comprehensive transmission of both native TDM and native Ethernet/IP traffic for the smooth evolution of transmission networks. They will enable the introduction of next-generation IP-based services during this transition period.

We will explore this category of digital microwave technology for wireless backhaul, which is becoming ever more important as the 4G LTE wireless revolution gets underway with all due earnestness, even while the current 3G—and even 2G—networks continue to carry traffic for the foreseeable future.

Our current white paper builds on Aviat Networks‘ previous April 2010 white paper titled “What is Packet Microwave?” and provides market data from recent industry analyst reports that demonstrate the significant and continuing role of TDM in mobile backhaul networks and some of the prevailing concerns of operators in introducing Ethernet/IP backhaul services.

  • Solving the backhaul dilemma (fiercewireless.com)
  • Groundbreaking plunge into the super-fast future (smh.com.au)
  • Backhaul for the Mobile Broadband or Wireless Broadband Network (aviatnetworks.com)
  • Small Cell Mobile Backhaul: The LTE Capacity Shortfall (aviatnetworks.com)
  • iPass builds Wi-Fi exchange to expand operators’ data offload reach (connectedplanet.com)

 

If you’d like to talk to someone about the ideal wireless network backhaul solution for you, please click here.

  • July 1, 2011

Antennas: Why Size is Important for This Wireless Equipment

Antenna tower supporting several antennas. The...

Image via Wikipedia

In response to the recent FCC docket 10-153, many stakeholders proposed relaxing antennas requirements so as to allow the use of smaller antennas in certain circumstances. This is an increasingly important issue as tower rental costs can be as high as 62 percent of the total cost of ownership for a microwave solutions link. As these costs are directly related to antenna size, reducing antenna size leads to a significant reduction in the cost of ownership for microwave equipment links.

The Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition (FWCC), of which Aviat Networks is a major contributor, proposed a possible compromise that would leave Category A standards unchanged while relaxing Category B standards. The latter are less demanding than Category A, and after some further easing, might allow significantly smaller antennas. The rules should permit the use of these smaller antennas where congestion is not a problem, and require upgrades to better antennas where necessary.

A further detailed proposal from Comsearch proposed a new antenna category known as B2, which would lead to a reduction in antenna size of up to 50 percent in some frequency bands. This would be a significant cost saving for link operators.

At the present time, the industry is waiting for the FCC to deliberate on the responses to its 10-153 docket, including those on reducing antenna size.

See the briefing paper below for more information.

Ian Marshall
Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks

Related articles
  • Testing the T-shirt antenna (physorg.com)
  • Ball Aerospace to build F-35 antennas (bcbr.com)
  • Small Cell Mobile Backhaul: The LTE Capacity Shortfall (aviatnetworks.com)
  • Ireland Issues Spectrum Consultation on Wireless Communications (aviatnetworks.com)
  • Network Services from Aviat Networks’ Network Operations Center (aviatnetworks.com)
  • June 24, 2011

Mobile Security Requires More Than Secure Wireless Devices

Person with PDA handheld device.

Image via Wikipedia

When people think of mobile security, they usually think of encryption for their smartphones, tablet computers such as the BlackBerry PlayBook or other wireless devices. Or they think of a remote “wipe” capability that can render any lost device blank of any data if some unauthorized party did in fact try to enter the device illegally. These wireless solutions are all state-of-the-art thinking in the mobile security community. And many wireless equipment OEMs and third-party mobile security providers offer them.

But they only protect the data on the devices. They only protect so-called “data at rest” once it’s been downloaded onto the iPhone or iPad. They don’t speak to the need to cover “data in motion” as it is transmitted over the air. Some parts of the over the air journey are protected by infrastructure in the form of Wi-Fi and GSM. One is notoriously subject to human failing to enable security and the other has been broken for sometime. And then there is wireless security for backhaul. In this area, there has not even been an industry standard or de facto standard established. And most microwave solutions providers don’t even offer options for wireless security on the backhaul.

Fortunately, this is not the case across the board. Strong Security on the Eclipse Packet Node microwave radio platform offers three-way protection for mobile backhaul security: secure management, payload encryption and integrated RADIUS capability. Read the embedded overview document in full-screen mode for more details:

  • June 10, 2011

TDD or FDD Wireless: That is the Question!

Image via Wikipedia

TDD, or Time Division Duplex, where a single radio channel is used to send and receive data, has been a common technique employed in unlicensed microwave transmission bands, such as 2.4 and 5.8GHz. The advantage of TDD is a simplified and lower cost design, often based upon 802.11 standards. In contrast, FDD, or Frequency Division Duplex, where data is transmitted in one frequency channel and received in another (separated by anywhere from less than 100 to more than 1,000 MHz) has been the staple of licensed frequency bands between 2 and 38 GHz worldwide.

Now, a number of the CEPT recommendations for the new point to point bands over 40GHz contain provisions for TDD operation. TDD is accommodated either as an alternative band plan or a mixed TDD/FDD band plan, in addition to the more common FDD band plan. However, CEPT recommendations are only just that—recommendations. How these bands will be implemented in each country will be determined by the individual national regulatory authority.

Recently, we asked a number of European national regulators about if and how they would introduce TDD operation in these new bands. The general response was that they were not opposed to the introduction of TDD in principle, and that such operation would have to be worked into existing or revised band plans. One complication raised was that spectrum would have to be reserved for guard bands between TDD and FDD segments within the same band. Regulators usually try to avoid having to waste valuable spectrum in this way. Also, once a band plan is established and the spectrum allocated to users, efforts to introduce TDD operation at a later date is extremely difficult.

Some regulators have already issued new national band plans at 42GHz and above, and to date none of these allow for TDD operation. Furthermore, for countries that have allocated new bands through spectrum auction, there we see the usual FDD style symmetric band approach.

Despite the appeal of TDD operation from a cost perspective, early indications are that although provision for TDD operation is being made in these higher bands, practical complications and concerns over maximizing the use of new bands may prevent its widespread introduction.

What are your thoughts on using TDD more in national band plans? Leave a comment, if you’d please.

Ian Marshall
Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks

Related articles
  • May 20, 2011

Ethernet OAM Meets Demands on Microwave (Wireless) Networks

Ethernet OAM (Operations, Administration and Maintenance) can help mobile network operators and other transport providers meet the ever-growing demands for increased bandwidth across the backhaul network as well as meeting the equally important demand for quality and reliability of service.

This white paper will look at how Ethernet OAM can help the evolution from TDM to Next Generation Networks (NGN), with a focus on microwave-based NGN radio networks.

  • May 13, 2011

Comprehensive Embedded Security in Microwave (Wireless) Networks

The current and ongoing migration toward IP networking on backhaul networks supports rising data volumes, which is increasing the opportunities and motivations for data and call interception. As data volumes rise in wireless networks and their associated microwave backhaul, security has become of greater concern.

This white paper presents a look at security issues, and the broad portfolio of solutions for remediating such concerns for microwave operators.

  • May 11, 2011

Security Focus as Wireless Traffic Rises, Mobiles Get More Powerful

Even though microwave communications have some built-in security-like features such as scrambling, narrow beamwidth, proprietary airframe, coding and other factors, it is not very hard for them to be broken by those with the proper expertise. Some vendors even openly offer digital microwave interception systems for “legitimate” monitoring. This and the growing sophistication and willingness of those attempting to break into wireless networks makes a high level of security for microwave more important than ever.

Historically, security and encryption measures were primarily employed by government or defense agencies or by the financial industry to protect sensitive information. But in today’s connected world the issue of network security can apply to any type of communications network, whether it is fixed, mobile or private.

Is Microwave Ready?

In general, microwave packet radio security is a concern. However, there are different aspects of microwave radio protection that must be considered. The information payload of microwave communications is the most obvious part. For operators that participate in the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the main issue is the security of the communications traffic they are carrying. That would involve both voice and data traffic.

Payload Security

Both popular and scholarly publications have been rife with stories of how easy it has become to tap into mobile calls. For example, the GSM code has been ineffective arguably since a hack was announced in August 2009. With GSM encryption broken, degraded or bypassed, mobile phone calls and text messages can be monitored and diverted by snooping parties. This can happen even before they get to the basestation. The BBC recently demonstrated GSM hacking in an online video.

Once calls and messages are in the mobile backhaul network, in many cases, no encryption is applied at all—not even the broken GSM code. In the past, hackers would have had to buy or by some other means obtain radio equipment identical to that they wanted to take over illegally. This was not an obstacle for those intent on industrial or governmental espionage, but it put it beyond the means of the run-of-the-mill hacker who has become familiar since the mid-1990s. Even if the hacking was not beyond the average hacker’s technical capabilities, it was beyond his economic capabilities. Now commercially available microwave monitoring equipment can be employed to pick out communications channels, to listen and record all conversation and ambient noises for up to 72 hours. One research firm also demonstrated how cell towers can be spoofed to intercept communications.

Secure Management

Another aspect of microwave security encompasses how secure is the management of the network. Even if the payload of a microwave backhaul network is secure, the management may not be, allowing hackers or others with malevolent motives to drop or kill traffic. Unsecure management channels can allow them to create mismatched frequency settings between radio pairs, reconfigure circuitry or reroute payload traffic to another radio if a cross-connect is present. For example, there was an instance where unauthorized users took control of a motorized antenna and repeatedly sent instructions for the motor to adjust the position of the antenna, eventually draining the batteries for the entire site, rendering it “dead.” However, with the shift to the all IP/Ethernet network of the future, hackers are finding ways to wreak havoc on backhaul networks from their desktop PCs, smartphones and other powerful mobile computing devices.

Access Control

Access control of the microwave network is also a cause for concern. It is critical that only authorized personnel are allowed to log onto the administration of a microwave backhaul network. Like many computer-based systems, microwave radios are set up with some basic logon access procedures. Oftentimes, the logon screen will not look very dissimilar from the typical Windows or Macintosh workstation. There will be a dialog box for a username and a password. However, unlike the typical desktop computer, a microwave radio’s graphical user interface is not logged onto that much. Therefore, as per human nature, their usernames and passwords become all too predictable. “Root” and “admin” and “123456” and “password” were very popular as usernames and passwords, respectively, according to one security study. A “mechanized” or “dictionary” attack can randomly generate username-and-password combinations and succeed in unlawfully logging onto a radio on this premise: that the logon will be subject to people being creatures of habit. Thus, there must be a way for microwave network administration to enforce a hard-to-guess username/password security policy.

Another aspect to access control is the issue of the level of control. It is also essential to control what each legitimate user is allowed to perform once logged in—to prevent voluntary and involuntary damaging actions. Not only must users be limited to their area of responsibility and knowledge and avoid involuntary commands that could damage the network but also reserve critical activity for designated key personnel (e.g., cryptography officers).

Would my Radio Network be Secure?

Given the security issues around microwave payload, management and access control, many questions have been raised. Would my microwave radio network be safe from intrusion? What would be the impact of breached calls or text messages? There could always be potential for a Greece type of incident. More importantly, the proactive questions to ask about microwave network security include:

  • Who does need a high level of security?
  • What comprises the high level of security necessary to protect my microwave backhaul?
  • What precautions will a high level of security invoke to protect my network?
  • How is this high level of security implemented?
  • What are the options for high-level security?
  • How do I get a high level of security for my network?
  • Is this high-level security solution standards-based?
  • What type of threats does my high-level security solution need to protect against?

We’ll examine these questions more in future posts. Or see our white paper.

  • May 4, 2011

The World’s Longest All-IP Microwave Link

Successfully Implementing a 193-km Microwave Link over Water to Deliver 99.9995 Percent Availability

Introduction

For most designers of microwave transmission paths, engineering a reliable link over water can be a daunting task. Reflections off the water surface can play havoc with the received signal, leading to high levels of interference resulting in fading and ultimately a high level of errors and signal interruptions. For these types of paths, performance calculations using commercially available software planning tools will be insufficient to ensure superior path performance. In these cases, experience and understanding of the key parameters that influence microwave performance are critical.

Recently, Aviat Networks and our agent, Telecomunicaciones y Sistemas S.A. (TELSSA), deployed an Eclipse microwave link for Central American Corporation for Air Navigation Services (COCESNA) in Honduras that crosses over 193 km, most of which is over water. With careful design and installation, this link is now operating successfully.

COCESNA is responsible for the air traffic control over Central America territory and oceanic areas, therefore, availability of service is a critical issue.

  • April 29, 2011

Synchronization Over Microwave Mobile Backhaul Networks


Synchronization is creating quite a stir in the mobile backhaul industry as operators are wrestling with a variety of synchronization technology options including Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) and Precision Time Protocol (PTP) a.k.a. IEEE 1588v2. This paper reviews unique microwave backhaul characteristics that need to be taken into account in support of synchronization, and how each particular synch approach can be addressed.

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